Wednesday, October 28, 2009

hail the robot overlords of novel-writing

This morning INTERN was going through her soon-to-be kaput computer's hard drive when she happened across a program called Writer's Dreamkit, a used-once present from INTERN's parents circa x-mas 2003.

Has anyone used or heard of it?

It's this completely insane novel-writing software that interrogates you at length about your characters and plot, then runs your answers through a baroque and frightening Story Engine and spits out a plot outline.

The best thing about Writer's Dreamkit is that it makes absolutely no bones about being a novel-writing robot. It doesn't try to put on a soft and friendly human face or pad its cold, hard plotting engine with fuzz. Writer's Dreamkit is like, "Hell yeah I'm a robot. And if you don't select your Impact Character's chief flaw from this pull-down menu in the next fifteen seconds, I'm gonna crash your system so hard you'll feel it for days."

INTERN was playing around with WDK all morning, and came to the following question:

Select the nature of what all your characters are hoping to achieve or prevent:

The Past
How Things are Changing
The Future
The Present
Gathering Information
Developing a Plan
Changing One's Nature
Conceiving an Idea

Yes, it begs the question how one's characters can Prevent the Past or Achieve their Memories, but if you grit your teeth and go through with it, WDK does a pretty solid job of forcing character motivation down your "experimental" "literary" throat. By the end of a round of Storyforming intense enough to rival a U.S customs interrogation, WDK has narrowed your story down from 30,000 possible plots to one single possible plot.


It hardly needs saying that the NaNoWriMo potential of this program is endless. Actually, INTERN is more curious about whether WDK can predict the plots of real people's lives based on their current conflicts, goals, and character traits. Will INTERN's fate be determined by a Timelock or an Optionlock? In order to achieve her (story engine-determined) goals, will she need to Change her Nature or Develop a Plan?

Hail the robot overlords of novel-writing! Brothers, sisters, we are saved!


  1. I am intrigued and fascinated!

    I currently only use Excel to aid in my NaNoWriMo efforts... anyone would like to use my Best NaNoWriMo Writing Progress Chart Ever can click through to my blog to get a copy...

  2. HA! This is too funny. I wonder if it's still around? hmm...

    ... here, Google ...

    OMG is this it?

  3. As for your actual life, just stick to the magic 8 ball. Infallible.

  4. I am frightened, very frightened.

  5. Preventing the Past could work for a Sci-Fi plot, but I'm not sure about Achieving Memories. Whatever. This brilliant software sounds like a must-have. Pass the kool aid, please.

  6. OMG, I want to play with this so badly now! Not only do I want to know what my destiny holds, but I want to plug in characters from famous novels and see what the robot comes up with :D.

    So.. much... potential!

  7. Is this why a third of Americans have a novel in progress?

    Submit automatic feedback,now

  8. ||Real Author >>> [[Implied Author >>> (Narrator) >>> (Narratee) >>> Implied Reader]] >>> Real Reader|| Chatman's "Diagram of Narrative Structure" pg. 267 [i]Story and Discourse[/i] from

    Story algorithms abound, the number of discrete literary element potentialities is a curve described by f of x = |n^(n-1)| Each end of the curve approaches infinity. Infinity is undefined. The vertex equals 1. Another way of using the same formula is for modeling the complexity of a system. It can be seen that inputting a number for n much larger than a single digit number or 10 is difficult to mentally conceptualize, just like story. Yay, forumulas, their complexity limitations prove that they're not the ever ellusive secret to fully realized story writing.


  9. It IS similar to the nano worksheets that they have for kids on the nano jr site. It just helps the kids prethink a bit about characters, plot, setting, etc. But the writing still has to be done by the kids, not a robot. Would be fun to play around with just for a laugh though.

    I smell a giveaway of a burned CD...

  10. Wow, this totally explains so much stuff I read!

  11. ella144 and everyone: you can download a free demo here:

    doing a Storyform interrogation would probably make a great party game for drunk people ("have the Main Character be motivated by greed—no, lust! Luuuuuust!")

  12. I've heard of DreamKit. Story Mill for Mac is another program. Both I avoided, haha. For me it's a lot easier to just write it down. And I don't have to worry about my pads of paper freezing or crashing. :-P

  13. I think you *should* plug in your real life info and see what it comes up with about your fate.

    That would be a fun exercise - and of course, we'd all like you to blog about the results.

  14. This sounds a lot like Dramatica, a similar android thingy. It's a pretty good deal as far as organizing your thoughts. It helped me add a lot of dimension to my characters, but it felt like more work than just writing the darn book.

  15. Hah! This is hilarious! Especially since I'm sitting around tonight Conceiving an Idea.

  16. I have it - my first novel writing software purchased. It takes a long time to get to that one possible plot and if you don't have the slightest idea of what you want to do, well, good luck with that. Now I use Word and WriteItNow which doesn't give you anything robot-y.

    @Jay - It looks like the scaled down version of Dramatica Pro, definitely android thingy.

  17. It's like a magic 8 ball... and probably just as useful.

    I'm going to find that program and center my life around it. It'll be the stuff of legend.

  18. Does the near-kaput-ness of the hard drive mean you need a new computer? If so, you should email me and maybe you can have one for free from me.

  19. hi Narya! thanks for your generous offer...INTERN has another new-to-INTERN computer coming her way from another source, so all is well :)

  20. Madame Intern,

    I've very much enjoyed your posts on the grueling and brutal realities of a publishing intern's apprenticeship. Your voice is fresh, vigorous, and original in ways that deeply touch me with emotional significances. I especially loved the delicious flavors of ironies in play, so much so that I want to read a memoir or novel portraying trials of emotional transition from late postadolescence through young adult to fully realized pre-middle ager in a similar voice.

    A fellow traveler. (In publishing internships, and creative writing, at least.)

  21. That is so awesome that your parents bought you a novel writing software. They believe your dreams are sound.

    My own parents poo pooed the writing life and advised getting "a good union job with health insurance" or working in a bank - "all the ladies there seem so nice."

  22. I for one welcome our new Robot Overlords.

  23. As a hack writer starting to get intrigued by the process of novel-writing, I have to admit there's a horrid fascination in this post. I may check out some of this software - it's a lot cheaper than a creative writing course (and could I bear that?) and less time-consuming than joining some kind of group and listening to Other People's Opinions on what I should write (although I don't mind trying that once the Magnum Opus is near completion.) I guess learning SOME of the rules is useful if only so I can break them. Anyway I like playing around with software, so there, and it's a lot more fun than working. Anyone else suggest software not listed above for me to check out?

  24. Ah-freaking-mazing. I heart you INTERN, I really do. And I like your commenters, too.